My Pulmonary Embolism Story

March is Blood Clot Awareness month.  Prior to a year ago, I didn’t even know that there was a month dedicated to blood clot awareness.  But last year on March 1, I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lung.  I was lucky, mine was caught in time, but 10 to 30% of people will die within one month of diagnosis and sudden death is the first symptom in 25% of people who have a pulmonary embolism.  When I think about those statistics, it makes me feel panicky.  I was 34, active, didn’t smoke, barely drank alcohol, ate relatively healthy, I had none of the factors that predisposed me to having a blood clot, but it happened to me.

 

I had been feeling a bit run down, but it was February which is often the time of year at work that things just feel kind of blah.  My kids had also had a fairly rough winter for illnesses, in fact Hunter was on antibiotics at the time for pneumonia, so my symptoms of exhaustion, slight shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, and nausea did not really alarm me at all.  I was actually slightly annoyed that I was sick, as I really did not have the time to go to the doctor, just one more thing that I couldn’t figure out how I could fit into my busy days.  Thankfully it was the weekend, so I was hoping with some extra rest, I could kick whatever bug I had and get back to normal.

 

I first noticed that something was really off when I was reading my kids a story before bed and was really struggling to get the words out.  I felt like I just couldn’t get enough air.  I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought, again likening it to my potential pneumonia.  The next morning when I got out of bed I felt pretty dizzy, and once again sort of pushed it out of my mind.  As the day went on, I noticed that walking up the stairs was really difficult, I’d be very short of breath and start getting tunnel vision at the top.  Sunday afternoon we took the kids for a little walk around the block and as we walked I felt my heart racing and started feeling dizzy enough that I had to stop and rest a few times.  

 

Monday morning I woke up, and having a shower to get ready for work left me exhausted.  I laid back down on the bed and Darren told me to phone in sick.  The thought of having to get a day plan together to send into school just felt so exhausting and I had used up so many of my sick days because Hunter had been so sick that year, so I got myself dressed and went off to work.  By the time I got to work, I felt like the world was spinning.  The walk from my car to my classroom (maybe 100 metres) left me gasping for air.  As I got into my room, my friend in the next classroom asked how my weekend was, and I dissolved into tears.  I explained it off as stress and just not feeling good. I lamented to her about how it was such a pain to get a doctor’s appointment, I’d have to call at 8:30 when the office opened, the line would probably be busy, by the time I got through all the appointments would be taken, and on and on.  As I was prepping my classroom for the day, I just started feeling worse and worse, so at 8:45 I called my doctor’s office and was shocked that the line was free and they could get me in for an appointment at 2 that afternoon.  I’m lucky that the the administrators at my school are super supportive my vice-principal lined up a supply teacher for me for the afternoon, and I spent the rest of the morning feeling good about my decision to get checked out.

 

By the time 2:00 rolled around, my shortness of breath and overall symptoms of unwell were quite a bit worse.  As I described my symptoms to my doctor, he seemed a bit puzzled, and quickly ruled out pneumonia because my chest sounded clear.  He could obviously tell that breathing was a struggle however, and told me that he was going to send me for a lung scan the next morning to rule out a pulmonary embolism.  It was the first time I had really heard before in reference to something I should care about, as opposed to just hearing it in passing; I didn’t really know what it was.  He assured me about two or three times that he was sure that wasn’t what was going on with me, but he needed to rule it out.  So I left the office with instructions for my lung scan at the hospital the next morning.  I popped into school on my way home to let them know I would be off the next day as well, assuring everyone I would see them Wednesday, because I definitely didn’t have a blood clot, there was no way, right?

 

I spent that evening feeling terrible, googling (never a good idea), and joking with Darren about how much time off of work a Pulmonary Embolism would get me (it had been a stressful year). I wouldn’t let Darren come with me to the hospital, why would he take a day off of work for no reason?  It seemed stupid to me.  My mom however, insisted on coming with me.  She wanted to drop me off at the front door of the hospital and park the car, I refused to let her do that because “I was fine!”  So I huffed and puffed my way into the hospital from the car and got checked in to the place where they would do my lung scan.  I must have been the first appointment, as they took me back right away and explained the procedure.  I had to breath in some radioactive stuff and then lay in a machine that rotated slowly around my body for about 45 minutes taking pictures every 5 degrees.  After that they injected me with a radioactive dye and then took the same pictures, they’d then compare the pictures to see blood flow, versus air flow.  From where I was laying, I could see the screen, it was kind of neat to watch.  I did notice a weird blacked out area on the scans, but again was so convinced there was nothing wrong, I didn’t think too much of it.  They sent me out to the waiting room to wait for a doctor to review the scans.  Someone came to get me about 10 minutes later for a chest x-ray.  I just assumed that this was standard and they forgot to tell me I was having one.

 

My mom and I sat and chatted in the waiting room, trying to decide where we were going to go for lunch, since I had this unexpected day off.  We had just settled on somewhere in St. Jacobs when a doctor looking person came out and called my name.  I stood up and he walked over and told me that I needed to head down to the ER and that he would meet me there.  Instantly I my eyes filled with tears, knowing that I was experiencing the worst case scenario.

 

We went to the ER and bypassed the waiting room, only to be taken back to a waiting room in the treatment area of the ER.  Over the course of a few hours, I was poked, prodded, had blood taken, and waited.  So much waiting.  Eventually the doctor from upstairs took me into an exam room and fired off a bunch of questions at me, told me I had a pulmonary embolism in the left bottom quadrant of my lungs, gave me some blood thinners on the spot, and gave me a prescription for blood thinner and sent me on my way.  I left in a bit of a daze, feeling even worse than I had been feeling the last few days.

 

This past year has gone by in a bit of a blur.  I was off of work from March until September.  Things weren’t getting better quickly as I had hoped.  There were some complications with my heart, and lots of waiting for tests, and then even more waiting for test results.  It’s been a year and all of the complications have settled down, but I’m left with a lingering shortness of breath, some regular chest pain, and anxiety and the inability to cope with things the way that I used to be able to.  I feel like my reaction to things escalates quickly, leaving me with a rapid heartbeat and a tightening in my chest that I have never experienced before.  It is scary, but it is also my new normal.  I’m hoping that over time it slowly goes away.

 

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  This didn’t kill me.  I’m not entirely sure how much stronger I feel, but I’ve definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things in my life.  Life is short, and there is no sense being unhappy with situations we find ourselves in.  I’m finding that I am much more selfish when it comes to my needs.  It’s easier to say no when I don’t want to do something, and it also gave me perspective on the people that are most important to me.  When something so major happens, you really learn who your people are.  Relationships I had with many people were either strengthened, or shattered; I needed to be a taker (as much as it was incredibly difficult for me), and I didn’t have a whole lot to give to people. It gave me some clear perspective on the people that I need and want in my life.  I think that that alone was a silver lining on a dark cloud.

 

I’ve also started taking better care of myself.  I urge everyone to do this more.  Sometimes as a working mother, I spent so much time being “perfect” at home and at work, that I did not notice the toll it was taking and that the exhaustion and stress I was feeling was not as necessary as I thought it was.  I’m actually a healthier and happier person when I put my own needs first sometimes, and that makes me so much better for my family and in my job.
So, in March, Blood Clot Awareness month, I share my story with hope that someone else goes to the doctor at the beginning of their symptoms and not try to be a hero.  If I would have kept my hero facade going for any longer, I may not have been here to write this.

 

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Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake…a.k.a. Heaven in a pan

It’s been awhile. I don’t feel happy about that fact and I’ve sat down many times in the last few months to post an amazing recipe. Life with an almost 4 year old and an 11 month old is BUSY! I’m cooking lots and experimenting so much, but it seems like I haven’t been able to document as I go or find the time to write up and post recipes.
But it’s a new year, and I’m going to make a better effort. I promise!
Today I made one of my favourite cake recipes. It pretty much takes 5-10 minutes to mix up, and 45 to bake. It is easy. It is delicious. It is good to bring to a friend who is sick, or had a baby, or went back to work. You’ll make this often. I know I do. I didn’t take pictures of the process today, but it’s pretty straight forward. I think you will enjoy it.

 

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake
Ingredients:
1/2 c.softened butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. sour cream
2 tbsp. milk
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1package of chocolate chips
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar

Method:
Grease a square baking pan (I have a nice ceramic one I like to use). In a medium bowl cream together the sugar and butter, and then add eggs until the mixture is light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream and milk and set aside. Sift together, the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and add alternately with the sour cream mixture, to the butter mixture, until well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan (it will be thick, you’ll have to use a spatula to spread it to the edges). Combine the cinnamon and ½ c. sugar and sprinkle the mixture over the batter. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Cool before serving (this is a favourite in our house and we often cut into it while still warm).

Fresh out of the oven.  Yum!

Fresh out of the oven. Yum!

 

Hunter's face after trying a nibble!

Hunter’s face after trying a nibble!

Eat fresh, eat local!

It’s that fabulous time of year again where fresh, local produce is available to us at roadside farms, the market, some grocery stores and even our own backyards.  There is a great little local farm between Ayr and Kitchener that is known for its asparagus, Barrie’s Asparagus (http://www.barriesasparagus.com/).  They have the most delicious asparagus I’ve ever eaten, hands down.  For the past two weeks or so, we’ve been eating asparagus like crazy over here (try it grilled on the barbecue, so easy and yummy).  I popped in there yesterday with the kids to grab a few pounds of the good stuff so I could make some soup today.  My in-laws were down over the weekend as well, and my mother-in-law brought us a ton of rhubarb from her garden, so I needed a recipe to turn it into something delicious (I’m not a huge rhubarb fan in general, but Darren likes it).

Last week a dear friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Nora, and so I wanted to drop some delicious things off on their porch.  There was nothing I appreciated more when we got home with Hunter than meals and baked goods delivered.  Hunter was very cooperative this morning and slept in until almost 10AM after his early morning feed, so I had plenty of time in the kitchen to play around.  I ended up making a batch of Cream of Asparagus soup and a Buttermilk Rhubarb cake.  Perfect to deliver to my friend and probably enough for dinner tonight!

The soup is so easy.  I don’t even have a recipe for it, as I sort of made it up as I went.  But I will give you the step-by-step for it.

I started off by snapping my asparagus stalks into small pieces and setting aside the asparagus tips.

Snap the asparagus spears into small pieces

Snap the asparagus spears into small pieces

Set aside the tips

Set aside the tips

In a large pot, bring the asparagus pieces to a boil in chicken stock (can use just water, but the stock gives it more flavour).

Boiling away

Boiling away

At this point, I realized that I didn’t put any onion in.  So I quickly diced up half of a vidalia onion and tossed it into the boiling pot.  What I would do next time, is fry up the onion in a bit of butter in the empty soup pot before adding the stock and asparagus, but it worked out this way too.

Tossed in some onion

Tossed in some onion

I let this boil for about 30-45 minutes to make sure that everything was nice and tender.  Then I added in about a 1/2 cup (that’s all I had left) of sour cream.

Adding sour cream

Adding sour cream

After I stirred in the sour cream, I got out the immersion blender and blended this up until it was nice and creamy.

Blending it until smooth

Blending it until smooth

Once the soup was smooth, I then added salt and pepper to taste and added the asparagus tips that I had set aside earlier, in.

Seasoned to taste, and asparagus tips added

Seasoned to taste, and asparagus tips added

I let this cook a little bit longer to meld all of the flavours together and so the asparagus tips softened up a little bit.  You could just boil the tips and blend them up with the rest of the asparagus, but I find that adding them in at the end, puts a bit of texture and prettiness back into the soup.

I let the soup cool and then poured it into 1L mason jars so it was ready for delivery!

Ready to be delivered

Ready to be delivered

 

So once the soup was done, I needed to do something with my rhubarb.  Like I said earlier, I’m not at all a fan of rhubarb, but this Buttermilk Rhubarb cake, might make me a convert.  It was quick and easy and turned out delicious.

First, chop up your rhubarb into bite sized pieces and toss with 3 tablespoons of white sugar.  Set this aside.

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Next, whip up room temperature butter until it is nice and fluffy.

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Add sugar and continue beating.

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Add vanilla and eggs and beat again.

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At this point, you are done with the beaters.  The rest will be mixed by hand so that your batter does not become overmixed.

At this point, you’re supposed to mix up the dry ingredients separately before adding them to the wet ingredients.  I’m lazy.  I don’t ever do this, and it usually works out okay.  If you add your baking powder/baking soda first and make sure it is really mixed in, you’ll avoid any clumps which mixing them separately essentially does.

Next you need to alternate adding the flour and the buttermilk.  I didn’t have buttermilk on hand, but you can make your own by adding a splash of vinegar to the amount of milk that you need.

Faking the buttermilk

Faking the buttermilk

So, add your flour and buttermilk, slowly alternating between each while you mix by hand.

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Once the batter is all mixed up.  Add your sugared rhubarb and fold it in.

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The batter will be fairly thick.  Pour the batter into a greased 8×8 baking pan.  You may need to spread it with a spatula.

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Now, you make the crumb topping.  Mix room temperature butter with flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  I use way more than the called for amount of cinnamon because I like the extra spice.  This mixture will become crumbly.

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Sprinkle this crumbly mixture evenly over the top of the batter.

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Place the baking pan in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes (check with a toothpick for doneness, as I needed to give it a bit longer).  The edges should be a bit browned.

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Now, I made one of these for us too, just so I could quality control.  I was surprised by how yummy it was, you couldn’t even tell it was rhubarb!  It may even change a good friend of mine’s opinion on rhubarb (http://toughbananasblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/rhubarb-its-time-to-end-the-conspiracy/).

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Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb (small bite-sized)
3 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup butter at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
For the Topping:
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar (white)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Method:
Spray an 8 inch square pan with non-stick spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chopped rhubarb in a small bowl and toss with 3 tbsp sugar, set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and (second amount of) sugar and beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla (you could do this part with an electric mixer if you want to, but do the rest by hand so the batter does not get over-mixed). In another bowl, mix all remaining dry ingredients together and add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Fold in the sugared rhubarb and scrape the batter into prepared pan, smoothing top somewhat. Mix the topping ingredients together by hand until big crumbles form and scatter them evenly over the batter. Bake cake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done in the center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Parmesan

This is one of my favourite meals to make.  It is a bit time consuming and labour intensive, so it’s not one that I make often.  When I do make it, however, it is always a big hit.

I always start by making a tomato sauce.  Using fresh tomatoes is ideal, but if you don’t have any around, or its winter and they’re ridiculously expensive and have no taste, canned tomatoes work as well.

To start the sauce, I sauted a bit of chopped garlic in some butter.

Getting the garlic going

Getting the garlic going

 

I then added my tomatoes, a bit of water, seasoning (salt, pepper, oregano, basil) and a splash of red wine and left it on the stove to simmer.

Getting the tomatoes going

Getting the tomatoes going

 

Simmer this mixture until the tomatoes break down and everything starts to thicken up.  If your sauce is too runny, you can add some tomato paste to thicken it up a little bit.

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Next, I got things organized to get the chicken cutlets ready.  I started by preparing my egg mixture.  In a baking pan, I combined an egg, a splash of milk, salt, pepper, and some sour cream and whisked it all together.

Egg mixture

Egg mixture

 

Then I got the breadcrumb coating ready.  In another baking pan I combined, bread crumbs (I like to use the “Italian Style” crumbs because they have some flavour), salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and oregano.

Breadcrumb mixture

Breadcrumb mixture

 

The next thing to do is prep the chicken.  I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pounded them into cutlets myself.  I put one breast at a time into a large Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to pound it out nice and thin.

Pounding out the chicken

Pounding out the chicken

 

Next I breaded the chicken.  First I dipped it into the egg mixture, making sure that it was all coated.

Dipping into the egg mixture

Dipping into the egg mixture

 

Once the chicken was well coated in the egg mixture, I moved it to the breadcrumb mixture.  I use a fork to make sure it is entirely coated in breadcrumbs.

Coating the chicken with breadcrumbs

Coating the chicken with breadcrumbs

 

Once the cutlets are breaded, I heated up a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil and a little bit of butter.  I put the breaded chicken cutlet in and fried until nice a brown on one side, flipped it, and fried the other side.

Frying the chicken cutlets

Frying the chicken cutlets

 

As I was frying the chicken, I lined a 9×12 glass baking dish with a little bit of the tomato sauce that I made earlier.

Lining the baking dish with tomato sauce

Lining the baking dish with tomato sauce

 

As the cutlets were done frying, I placed them in the sauce-lined baking dish.

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Once all the chicken cutlets were in the pan, I liberally poured tomato sauce on top of them.

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I then put a layer of grated mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken breasts.

Adding the cheese on top

Adding the cheese on top

 

Then I put the baking dish in a 350 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes until it was heated through and the cheese was nice and bubbly.

I served my chicken parmesan with egg noodles (with butter and parmesan cheese on top) and green beans.

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This meal was delicious.  The chicken was so moist and juicy.

Cross section of the chicken parmesan

Cross section of the chicken parmesan

 

A little bit of work, but the deliciousness of the reward is completely worth it!

A Great Summertime Dessert

I usually reserve this dessert for the hot days of summer.  Maybe I was willing the weather to warm up a little bit, or maybe it is so easy and delicious I just wanted to have some.  Nevertheless, for a barbecue with friends this past weekend, this little gem seemed like the perfect dessert.  This recipe goes WAY back to when my mom was a young teacher in the late 70’s.  It has been modified and changed by us over the years, that I was almost surprised when I found the actual recipe this morning.  This one is so easy that I’m not sure I ever actually used a recipe, but instead make it the way I remember my mom making it, and changing things up depending on my mood.

I made quite a few modifications to the original recipe when I made this yesterday, but it is one of those recipes that I don’t think could go wrong no matter what you did.  Because I didn’t want a lot of leftovers, I made this batch in a 9×9 pan.

I started by mixing the milk and Bailey’s in a shallow dish.

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Then, I dipped the chocolate chip cookies into the milk mixture, turning them, so they were soaked (but not super saturated) on both sides.

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Then, I lined the bottom of my 9×9 pan with the soaked cookies, breaking smaller pieces of cookie to fill in the holes.

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Next, I spread a liberal layer of Cool Whip over the cookies to cover them.

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Now, for a modification from the original recipe, I drizzled Irish caramel sauce over the Cool Whip layer (this was the first time I’ve tried this, and it was fantastic).

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Next, I sprinkled a crushed Kit Kat Chunky bar overtop of the Cool Whip/Caramel layer (the original recipe calls for Butterfinger, but I think you can only get those in the States.  I usually use Skor, but thought I’d change it up).

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Then you just repeat the layers.  The 9×9 dish I was using was really deep, so I ended up being able to layer 3 times (normally I just do 2 layers of each).

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Once it was all layered up, I covered the dish in foil and put it into the deep freeze.  Mine was only in the freezer for 4 hours, and it was not enough time (didn’t freeze solidly enough), I recommend overnight for best results.

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When you’re ready to serve, cut into squares and lift out of the pan.  They come out fairly together because everything is frozen nicely.

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Easy, impressive, AND delicious.  My favourite kind of recipe.

 

Frozen Kahlua “Cake” Recipe
Ingredients
1 c. milk
½ c. Kahlua (or Baileys, Grand Marnier, etc.)
2 packages Chocolate Chip Cookies (I like to use PC Decadent)*
2 large tubs of Cool Whip
6 Butterfinger Chocolate Bars crushed (I always prefer to use Skor bars, but anything can be used)

Method
Mix milk and liquer in a shallow dish. Dip cookies in mixture. Line the bottom of a lasagna pan with soaked cookies. Spread a layer of Cool Whip overtop. Sprinkle half of the crushed chocolate bars overtop. Repeat, layering like lasagna. Cover pan with foil and freeze (ideally overnight). Cut into squares and serve.

* I’ve tried this with many different cookies (homemade chocolate chip, peanut butter cookies, oreos, etc.) and they’ve all turned out great.  It just depends on what you have on hand and what you’re in the mood for.

The Chili Experiment

When Darren and I moved in together, we always referred to making chili as “The Chili Experiment,” because no matter if I thought I was making it the exact same way, it never turned out tasting the same.  Chili is one of those things that you can sort of make up as you go along.  I do a lot of my cooking like this, and so for this post, there is not a standard recipe at the end.  Over the years I’ve made many different types of chili like vegetarian chili, chicken chili, and many many many variations of standard chili.  The instructions I’m posting today is pretty much what I do to make a standard chili.  This time I used my crock pot because it was one of those days where we were coming and going all day, and this way I got it going in the morning and it was perfect when we got home at dinnertime.

I started by browning my ground beef in a frying pan.  I used a non-stick pan so I didn’t have to add any extra fat.  I also like to buy extra lean ground beef, but once the beef is browned, I’ll rinse it with cold water and drain it to get all of the fat out.

Browing some extra lean ground beef

Browing some extra lean ground beef

 

After the meat was browned and rinsed, I kept it in the frying pan and added some finely diced onions and continued to cook this mixture over a medium heat.

Adding some onions to the meat

Adding some onions to the meat

 

As the onions started to soften up, I added some diced celery and continued to cook over medium heat.

Adding diced celery

Adding diced celery

 

Next I added about a half teaspoon of minced garlic and continued cooking.

Getting a bit steamy, but minced garlic was added and mixture continued to cook

Getting a bit steamy, but minced garlic was added and mixture continued to cook

 

Once everything was a bit soft and browned, I poured the contents of the frying pan into the crock of my slow cooker, along with a large zucchini that I diced up.  You can add any vegetables you want at this point (often I will add shredded carrots as well).

Into the crockpot it goes

Into the crockpot it goes

 

Next I poured in 2 cans of plain stewed tomatoes.  I then filled both cans with water (to get all of the tomatoey goodness) and added the water to the crockpot and gave everything a stir.

Addition of stewed tomatoes and water

Addition of stewed tomatoes and water

 

Next I added two large cans of red kidney beans and two large cans of black beans.  I like to rinse the beans before I add them to get rid of all of the gross goo that is in the can.  Normally I would replace one of the the cans of red kidney beans with a can of canelli (or white kidney) beans, but I didn’t have any on hand.  You can add as much or as little beans to your chili as you want.  You can also add pretty much any variety that you like.  Beans are so healthy and full of fibre, so I like to load my chili up.  You can also add chickpeas if you want.

Adding the beans

Adding the beans

 

Next it is time to start flavouring the chili.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add chili seasoning to taste.  Sometimes I also add hot sauce or cayenne pepper to really spice things up, but since I was hoping Scarlett would eat some (she didn’t), I kept it fairly mild.  During my many chili experiments, I have also discovered a few additions that really make the chili.  One of these additions is Heinz Chili Sauce.  I usually have a bottle of this in the fridge and another in the cupboard.  It is a really great addition to a lot of things.  It is sort of like a zesty, chunky ketchup and can be found with the ketchup in the grocery store.  For this batch of chili, I added a whole bottle, but again, add to taste.

Chili sauce

Chili sauce

 

The other addition I like to make is one that I came upon by accident and not something that I would normally buy or use.  For some reason we had a can of Heinz Chili Style Beans, so I threw them into a batch of chili, and they added just the perfect flavour, so now I always make a point to use a can or two in my chili.

Chili style beans

Chili style beans

 

Once everything was in the crockpot, I gave it a big stir and then set it to high to start to simmer.  You can’t keep it on high too long, because beans tend to stick to the bottom of the crockpot and start to burn.  I ruined a whole batch of chili once because of this.  Once the chili starts to simmer (it took about an hour), I gave the pot a big stir again, making sure the scrape the bottom of the pot, and then set the crock pot to low.

Cooking away

Cooking away

 

We have a standing rule in our home, that whoever gets home from work, or wherever, first, turns the crockpot to the “keep warm” setting, especially if it has been on for more than 6 hours.  At this point, I also did some tasting (since the flavours had had a few hours to mix), and added any salt, pepper, or spices that I thought it still needed.  I also mixed in about a cup of frozen corn.  This is a new addition to chili for us, but the corn gives the chili just a little bit of sweetness which is a nice touch.

When it’s time to serve the chili, I like to make sure that we have a nice crusty bread to go with it.  My favourite at the moment is the Ace Bakery Harvest Grain Oval which you can get at Zehrs.  I also make sure we have a nice sharp cheddar cheese grated up, and some sour cream to garnish.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

 

The great thing about chili is that it freezes well.  This particular batch of chili made enough that I could freeze two large containers of it, and still have some in the fridge for Darren’s lunches.  We also had just enough to make chili dogs for dinner one night.  I had never tried them before, but they were pretty delicious.  We’ve started buying hotdogs from a local farm store here in Ayr, Oakridge Acres (http://www.oakridgeacres.ca), which I highly recommend you visit if you are in the area.  The hotdogs we get there are nitrate free, which is fantastic because normally hotdogs induce migraines for me, but these ones do not, and made by Stemmler Farms.

So Darren barbecued the hotdogs while I made some fresh french fries and heated the chili.  I wasn’t entirely sure how to garnish these, so I put out shredded cheddar cheese, and regular hot dog condiments and everyone sort of put on what they liked.  I enjoyed the cheese as well as ketchup and mustard on my chili dog.

An added bonus of leftover chili...chili dogs!

An added bonus of leftover chili…chili dogs!

You gotta try new food, because it might taste good!

We can all learn a lot from Daniel Tiger…this specific lesson is a good one…

 

So, I like to experiment in the kitchen. That is what this is all about and I can proudly say that I haven’t really had any dinner fails yet. I suppose there is always a first time for everything, but this wasn’t it.
Our actual conversation pre-dinner:
Darren: What’s for dinner?
Me: Pork tenderloin.
Darren: (giving the stove a once over) with blueberry sauce?
Me: Yes.
Fast forward 20 minutes to dinner.
Darren: This is actually really good.
Me: Did you think it wouldn’t be?
Darren: You have to admit, it sounded gross…blueberry sauce on pork.
Me: Have I ever made anything gross?
Darren: No. But you’ve also never made this.

Well, I did make it.  And it was delicious.  I never really know what to do with pork tenderloin.  I usually make some sort of apple-based sauce for it.  But we had a bit of red wine leftover from the weekend and some wild blueberries in the freezer, so I thought I would get creative.  I will admit, it could have definitely gone badly, but the wine cut the sweetness of the blueberries just enough that it was delicious.

I started out by heating some olive oil in a frying pan and prepping the tenderloin.  I rubbed some sea salt, pepper, and coarsely chopped up thyme (you could use dry thyme, but I happened to have fresh) over the surface of the meat.

Prepping the tenderloin

Prepping the tenderloin

 

Next I put the meat into the frying pan, and lightly browned all sides.

Into the frying pan

Into the frying pan

 

Browning all sides

Browning all sides

 

Then I transferred the tenderloin into the over which was preheated to 350°F.

While the meat was roasting, I drained the excess oil from the frying pan and poured in some red wine.  I let the wine come to a boil, while scraping the brown bits from the pan with a wooden spoon.  I then let the wine simmer a few minutes until it was slightly reduced.

Letting the wine reduce

Letting the wine reduce

 

I then stirred in the blueberries, some sugar, and the grated rind of a lemon, and brought it back to a boil.

photo 1-2

 

I added some cornstarch dissolved in cold water to thicken the sauce up a bit.  I let it simmer just until it was clear.

Thickening up

Thickening up

 

Once the tenderloin reached an internal temperature of about 160°F (as registered on a meat thermometer), I removed it from the oven and let it sit tented under foil for about 5 minutes before slicing.

160 F

160 F

 

Camping in a foil tent

Camping in a foil tent

 

I then sliced the meat in about 1/2 cm slices and plated them.  I poured some blueberry sauce over top.

Plating the tenderloin

Plating the tenderloin

 

I served the tenderloin with some boiled new potatoes (buttered and dilled) and asparagus.  Delicious.

photo

 

Ingredients:
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1 pork tenderloin (12 oz/375 g)
1 tsp olive oil
Wild Blueberry Sauce:
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp  grated lemon rind
1-1/2 tsp cornstarch
Method:
Rub thyme, salt and pepper over pork. In large ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown pork all over for about 4 minutes.
Transfer to 350°F oven; roast for about 30 minutes or until just a hint of pink remains and meat thermometer registers 160°F. Transfer to cutting board; tent with foil and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.
Wild Blueberry Sauce:
Meanwhile, drain any fat from frying pan. Pour in wine; bring to boil over high heat, stirring to scrape up brown bits from bottom of pan. Boil over medium-high heat until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.  Stir in blueberries, sugar and lemon rind; return to boil. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water; stir into sauce and simmer just until clear. Serve over sliced pork.